Austin Change-Makers Proudly Serve the Underserved
It was lovely hosting our recent Austin Meetup at the offices of Under Armour Connected Fitness. Topics discussed were tech for the international health market led by Rick Peters, MD, CIO of Dell Medical School, followed by a series of speakers on technology-enabled support solutions for substance abuse, pediatrics, amputees, and eating disorders.
Dr. Rick Peters notes, “when we are working in international health, we can’t assume that our own approach will be effective there. For instance, while traveling in Indonesia, Peters tackled the issue of malaria by creating an organization called Surfaid. Peters noticed that existing organizations were providing water filtration systems but realized that the true need is for the local government and communities to develop the infrastructure for safe water systems themselves. Instead of Surfaid building the systems, they provide the supplies, while the Indonesian people own and manage it with staff who conduct all training. Surfaid works in conjunction with the Indonesian government to make it happen as well. Peters notes that it is critical to maintain local economies and empower people by asking how they do what they do rather than asserting that we have a superior solution.
When it comes to technology, we have big data, genomics, smartphones, and sensors on the rise. However, Peters claims that even if you have the technology, this doesn’t translate to instant change. For instance, wearable technology does not necessarily improve weight loss.
So, how to find appropriate technologies? What tech do we have that can be applied to non-healthcare settings? What do others have that is low cost, innovate, and solves a technical problem? Peters notes that simplicity is superior.
- No side effects
- No refrigeration
- Doesn’t require English
- Inexpensive to produce
Our next speaker, Ali Bagheri of MAP Health Management, educates us on how his team is revolutionizing care for addicts. In the substance use disorders space, patients are treated with an acute care model, but him and his team want to bring a chronic care model to the forefront. They provide peer course counselors, track patients and engage them upon discharge. They collect data and offer a safety net in case a patient relapses and even have a predictive model for relapse. He notes that it’s essential to engage with family members as well to verify data and to strengthen support systems. Since it’s quite common for patients to face depression and anxiety, many patients are prescribed with multiple medications so it’s key to know medicine interactions.
We also had a guest speaker Lamarque Polvado, Founder & CEO of Carestarter, share his personal anecdote and how it inspired him to develop his own company. Having a son who was diagnosed with Autism, Omar realized that the pediatrics space is significantly behind senior care. To our surprise, 85% of adult caregivers in the pediatric space describe diagnosis as the least helpful event in their care journey. Omar claims that the reason behind this is the average amount of resources is 0-3 given on day 1 of diagnosis. So, Omar decided to take matters into his own hands. Carestarter provides a free mobile app that provides thousands of community resources available based on age and diagnosis.
Whether it’s foreign or domestic populations, we’re thrilled to see the variety of solutions that were presented at this event. Evidently, our Austin chapter is filled with change-makers!